Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre demands observance of rights of ethnic minorities and foreigners

posted 1 Oct 2014, 12:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Oct 2014, 13:01 ]
29 September 2014

Source: (info)
Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre (St. Petersburg) “expresses deep dismay and concern regarding the harassment of representatives of ethnic minorities and indigenous communities of the subject territories of the Russian Federation, and the limitation of the rights of foreign citizens, individuals with dual citizenship and stateless citizens”.

Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre states:

“In the second half of 2014 there were a number of incidents of crude violations of the rights of representatives of ethnic minorities and indigenous communities of the RF and Crimea.

On 16th September Russian police force surrounded the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People in Simferopol. Many members of the Mejlis were arrested, searched and were subjected to other forms of repression. Over the following week their organization’s building was taken away from the activists. The employees of those organizations had to resign, the property and the accounts of the Crimean Tatars’ organizations were arrested by the Russian authorities.

This repression is politically motivated. From the beginning of the spring this year Crimean Tartar activists have been subjected to harassment for refusing to accept Russian citizenship and recognize Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation. The most famous and respected members of the Mejlis have been continuously and violently harassed for their opinions regarding the issue of the political rights of the Crimean Tartars. Mustafa Djemilev and Refat Chubarov have practically been deported from Crimea, they are not given any opportunities to come back home, to their families, just as happened to their parents at the time of the soviet repression.

Moreover, not only Djemilev, who has been fighting for the right to live on his native land, has been accused of attempting to enter Crimea, but also those who supposedly support him. In particular, suspicions of having attempted to organize Mustafa Djemilev’s return to Crimea were officially given by the authorities as the reason for the September searches of the property of Crimea Tartars.

According to Mustafa Djemilev, activists of the Crimea Tartars’ movement are also threatened with bodily harm by the new Crimean government and the “self-defense troops”, formed by the pro-Russian militant citizens of Crimea, on whose support the Russian military relied during the annexation of Crimea by Russia in the spring of 2014.

We are extremely concerned about the disturbing evidence of various obstacles being placed in the way of participants in the First Worldwide Conference of the UN on Indigenous Peoples who sought to attend this conference from the RF and Crimea.

It was reported that on 18th September the director of the International Research and Support Trust for indigenous peoples of Crimea, Nadir Bekir, was attacked by unknown persons on the way from Simferopol to Kiev, from where he was to travel to the Conference. The unknown attackers stole his passport and absconded. Mr. Bekir is known for his willingness to cooperate with the Russian authorities, thus making it obvious that the problems which even he as a representative of the Crimean Tatar people happened to face were not so much a result of his political position, as of the very fact that he belongs to an ethnic minority.

The denial of the right to travel to New York of a number of representatives of organizations of indigenous peoples and minorities from Siberia, the North and the Far East of the RF was an obvious attempt to hinder their participation in the UN conference. On 18th September at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport the passport of Rodion Sulyandziga, director of the Centre for the Support of Indigenous Peoples and Minorities of Siberia, was damaged and he was refused permission to leave the country, being told that his document was unsuitable for travel abroad. Moreover, Mr. Sulyandziga was accused of damaging the document and was charged with an administrative offence.

The risks related to the exercise by foreign citizens (and Russians with dual citizenship) and stateless person of their lawful rights and interests are increasing. Anyone with a citizenship in addition to that of Russian must register to be on a special list of the Federal Migration Service.

It is absolutely obvious that this legislation is discriminatory by definition – no involuntary registration of certain categories of people (whether representatives of religious minorities or of any other indications of otherness) could be undertaken without resulting in discrimination.

The most outrageous aspect of this legislation is that it applies even to infants, whose only fault is that their parents are from different countries, countries that allow their children to legally have dual citizenship.

From 4th October, those who refuse to register the dual citizenship of their children may face severe punishment – up to 4 years’ imprisonment.

At the same time the norms are being developed to restrict the rights of people with dual citizenship and stateless citizens: they are already prohibited from managing NGOs, establishing media outlets or possessing more than 20% of the shares in a media outlet.

Unfortunately, the list of these kinds of restriction will only grow and affect larger numbers of legal rights and interests of Russian citizens with dual citizenship, or stateless citizens. Without any doubt, this will be the main means to harass those Crimean people who refuse to give up their Ukrainian citizenship.

The illegal restriction of rights on the basis of citizenship will affect millions of other people: many citizens of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and other countries have received Russian citizenship without giving up the passport of their native country.

The Constitution of the Russian Federation acknowledges the rights of foreign citizens in the RF, but the new laws and restrictions of their rights are in violation of the Constitution.

Instances of harassment and discrimination with regard to ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and citizens of foreign countries violate a number of international norms, ratified by the RF, including the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe, the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The European Convention on Human Rights, and others.

Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre demands that Russian and international guarantees of the rights of minorities be observed, which entails that discriminatory laws and bills be reviewed and that the practice of harassment and of limitation of the rights of peoples of Russia and Crimea be discontinued.” 

Translated by Olga Cable